Cynthia Hays Ph.D.
I am a marine evolutionary ecologist and a teacher. My goal is (1) to conduct research that provides meaningful insight into how populations function and evolve in variable environments (see below), and (2) to use this work as a platform for teaching undergraduates about experimental ecology and the scientific method. At Keene State, I have the pleasure and privilege of teaching courses directly within my area of interest and expertise: BIO 210 ‘Ecology’, BIO 111 ‘Evolution’, both introductory courses in the major, as well as upper level electives including ‘Experimental Marine Ecology’, ‘Phycology’, and ‘Quantitative Conservation Biology’. I also teach an ISP course called ‘Conservation in the Sea’ for non-biology majors.
The central theme of my research program is to explore how population genetic processes (things like gene flow, inbreeding, and local adaptation) influence how a species is distributed across the landscape, especially at the ‘edges’ or the limits to the distribution. This issue is particularly relevant in the context of ongoing environmental change. For example, under what conditions will evolution ‘rescue’ populations at the edges of a species’ range, such that they are able to adapt to changing conditions and persist where they are? Under what conditions do we expect the geographic range to shift or to contract? To answer these questions, I use a variety of different tools, including molecular genetics and demographic modeling as well as experiments in the field, so undergraduates who work in my lab have the opportunity to learn a range of new skills.
Most of my past research has been in nearshore marine systems, and I have several ongoing projects in my lab using marine macroalgae and seagrasses as model systems. I am also starting a new project in collaboration with Dr. Dan Doak (U. Colorado), Dr. Bill Morris (Duke U.) and Dr. Katrina Dlugosch (U. Arizona), examining the same fundamental questions about demography and distribution, but focusing on a terrestrial alpine plant, moss campion.